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Awareness Magazine
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How to Make Joint Decisions without Conflict

By Phil and Maude Mayes


How do you and your partner handle decision-making and problem-solving? For most couples, these activities are often a source of tension and conflict, rather than an opportunity for a creative experience together. These sessions frequently feel like duels over who is right, and produce little in the way of mutual satisfaction or inspired solutions.

We would like to share our process for solving problems, making decisions and coming to courses of action. Instead of tensions and feelings of separation, it offers a wonderful experience of joint action. This simple but effective process can be used by anyone, with often astounding results. Try it out, and with a little practice, you will find that a surprising transformation occurs.

Treat this as a new kind of experience together, and embark on this path as a shared adventure. Next time you and your partner have decisions to make or a problem to solve, try out this process. Set the scene by making sure both of you are comfortable, relaxed, and will not be hurried or interrupted. It’s important that there be no time constraints, and that you can give each other your full attention. Relax... empty your minds of everything and prepare to enjoy yourselves!

State the issue or problem you are considering. Fully share your thoughts and ideas, speaking one at a time. Listen to your partner without interrupting or doing any editing in your mind. It is really important that you do not criticize your partner’s suggestions, but simply accept them as their reality. Don’t be in a hurry to get to a particular place with the discussion.

Come from the position that neither of you is steering the exchange to a particular conclusion or is attached to a specific outcome; this will quickly dissipate any feeling of tension. Stay in the present with each other and don’t color your experience with preconceptions or projections. You will quickly find the atmosphere is without charge when there is no one pushing to be right.

When listening to each other, actually listen, rather than waiting for the moment when you can talk again about why your opinion is the correct one.Neither of you needs to be concerned with ‘needing to be right’ or ‘who is right.’ You are both on the same side.

In any situation there are many choices and outcomes. Often people lock onto a view and cannot let go of it to allow another one in. After having done this process for a while, we found that our responses to each other’s input were almost exactly the opposite: we began to eagerly hear the ideas and thoughts of the other. You will find that you come to appreciate that the other person has different views and ideas that expand the possibilities available to you.

By not freeze-framing a specific expectation or outcome, you allow something new and unexpected to happen. You will experience your partner introducing a variety into life that would not otherwise be there, and you will really begin to welcome change rather than resisting it.

At this point in the process something almost magical occurs. You will find an element arising that is not the original thought or idea from either of you. It is usually something better than either of you brought to the topic. You will find that you have come together and co-created something new without any experience of having compromised.

There have been no trade-offs nor any sense of winning or losing. The answer has grown out of the way you work together. It has come forth through being wholly open and allowing something new to occur. There is a special joy to be found in a course of action that is mutually chosen.

The more you do this, the better you get at it, because you have the accumulated experience of how good the results are each time. We have found this process brings a delightful sense of peace and pleasure with it. It is such a good feeling to experience the answers and solutions that emerge. They are always so much more than either person had separately.

This style is something that can be cultivated. You can come from a place of trust and respect that will enable you to find solutions that work for both of you, rather than only for one or the other. While doing this, seek for the positive and come from love. It feels much better than manipulation or force or pressuring or anger or self-right-eousness or control or separation. We wish you much joy as you experience this process and the transformation it brings.

Phil and Maude Mayes live in Santa Barbara, CA, having started in London, England and New York City respectively. Phil is a software engineer and photographer. Maude instructs adults with developmental disabilities and owns a business importing and selling antique European linens and laces. The striking difference between their marriage and previous relationships caused much reflection and discussion between them, and led them to write a book and ebook, “Secrets of a Successful Relationship Revealed,” available through Amazon and their website